Psycho-Pass II – 10 Review
Subtlety isn’t this second season’s strong suit.
Judging people as a collective… Hmm, all those illegal aliens turned out to be psychotic scumbags and every really smart person is either crazy enough to keep his or her Psycho-Pass clear or he or she ends up as a latent criminal. I feel like this second season has already judged a lot of people as collectives rather than individuals.
Trains. People use them. People Kamui needs for another one of his awesome plans that never fail. Spoiler: This time is no exception in that regard.
But if Chief Kasei has a say in the matter she would rather that Kamui wasn’t successful (again) and so she tries to kill two birds with one stone. She’s trying to traumatize Akane into getting a clouded Psycho-Pass by making her do all the legwork for the assassination of Kamui. So, she starts a little talk with Akane and casually drops on her the news that her grandma had been brutally murdered.
Akane has a mental breakdown and Mika’s time to shine has finally come. Naturally she spends most of her time trying to convince herself that she isn’t the kind of fuck-up everyone in the audience already knows she is.
Meanwhile Akane sits alone in the office of her Division and is close to losing her shit. But that’s when schizophrenia saves the day! Suddenly Kogami appears unbidden and sets her straight. Apparently it doesn’t take more than an imaginary boyfriend to keep you sane in trying time! This season just knows how to find a lot of bullshit in serious topics!
Inspired by (imaginary) Kogami’s words, Akane decides it’s time to throw caution to the wind and end this whole shitshow. With that she means, of course, that the solution for the clusterfuck that is the current situation is to simply give Kamui what he wants and then deal with the consequences later. And I guess, she’s about to find out what those consequences are…
Good thing, Akane was alone when that happened because if anyone would’ve seen that, she would’ve been declared crazy immediately. But the cameras should’ve captured it, right? But knowing this series, that detail simply won’t come up probably.
The second season of Psycho-Pass rushes to its conclusion without ever having settled down. Events transpire with an almost spontaneous logic, characters are more or less just playing their assigned roles and the story goes down a telegraphed route without ever thinking about the implications of said path. There are a lot of things that have happened in this series so far but none of them had the weight of drama. Maybe it’s due to its time-constraints of having to finish its arc within one season but this first series never really reached a point where it could imply what it’s going for. The only way this second season has ever talked to the audience was by bludgeoning the audience with its story and plot until even the last idiot would understand what was going on. Add to that a rather misguided effort to create a sequel for the first season and it all ends up being rather disappointing.
Once again, it’s an episode centered on Akane being a super-cop, more than that, a warrior of justice dealing with Kamui, Togane and his mother at the same time. But let’s talk about this other little thing that gets screentime in this series: You know, like everybody else in this series. You see, I call it a little thing because really all other characters besides Kamui, Togane and his mother are kinda irrelevant. The best thing you can say about those characters is that they are in the series and that’s it. This series’ setting mostly never came alive because most of the characters in it are pretty dull.
Although that’s just what they seem like. The heart of the matter is that the writing simply drops the ball in this series to find ways to make teamwork work. Akane is supposed to work together with the Enforcers as a team and Kamui is supposed to have followers but neither of those really offers room for those underlings to shine. The characterizations are often one-note and the dialogue of those characters is very broad. Those characters fulfill the minimum requirements of having an individual voice and that’s mostly thanks to the voice-acting. Other times the characters get some superficial individuality through exposition that is delivered straight to the audience without a lot of subtlety.
The worst thing about the side-characters in this second season is, though, that they are treated purely as plot-devices. They are there as catalysts for Akane’s awesomeness and not as individuals. And whenever those characters actually show a hint of individuality it’s done with the calculating gaze of a utilitarian writing-process. Just look at the stuff Ginoza has been doing in this season so far. He repeatedly warned Akane about being “too close to the case”, “getting too obsessed with it” and so on. It fueled the dramatic conflict within the Division – but here’s the thing: It didn’t go anywhere! Akane never really had any problems with her Psycho Pass (and exceptions prove the rule… kind of, but that’s brainfood for later in the review). Also, there was an emotional dialogue between Ginoza and one of the other Inspectors who he knew but that only happened because that other Inspector died in the very next episode and then Ginoza was shown to be really heartbroken about her death. Since then, though…? Well, she basically gets mentioned offhandedly from time to time and that’s it! The series didn’t even try to develop Ginoza’s character with this! This second season gives these fairly uninterestingly written characters story-beats and after the series is done with those, they just let the character go back into sleeping-mode where they just go through the motions of following Akane. There’s no real dramatic arc for Akane’s Division as a whole throughout this season. And Kamui’s followers have also been completely forgettable since the very beginning of this second season. The worst arc is Saiga’s because… well, he doesn’t have one. He’s just Saiga and that’s all this series has to say about it. He waxes poetically about what his ability to darken most people’s Psycho-Passes by just talking to them but it’s all just an old man mumbling to himself. Akane’s Psycho-Pass stays intact and so he can help her – that’s all. This series has NO understanding of how to utilize side-characters and how to portray them in an interesting manner.
But there’s one other “main-character” which I hadn’t mentioned because she has all the bad tendencies of how this series treats its side-characters magnified by the attention this series is giving her. Of course I’m talking about Mika. Her character really has only these three character-beats: Hating Akane, fretting over her Psycho-Pass and wanting to follow orders/doing things by the book. That’s her whole character. And naturally each of those beats has been utilized by this series to create drama. The funny thing is, though, that this drama is also self-reflective. She can turn scenes into dramatic ones just by being herself basically. There’s no real intelligence or perspective present in her characterization. It’s just a character who’s trapped by her own inadequacies without even being able to confront these. And since there’s no confrontation she’s just caught up in this endless cycle of despair and deepening this despair by making bad choices again and again. The story has been using her since the first episode as a “sort-of counterpoint” to Akane but since her character has never really experienced any serious development over the course of this series, the only foil she can be for Akane is one based on failure. And yep, that makes her a rather annoying character as I’ve mentioned countless times before in my reviews of this season.
The actual episode… Well, stuff happens, that’s for sure, but fucking hell… This is the tenth episode and I still feel like I’m watching a repetition of the past. It’s very poignant to notice at the end of this episode that all actions except Akane’s have been pretty pointless. Once again this is an episode detailing how Kamui is one step ahead of the MWPSB and how he does his usual mastermind-spiel.
This time around it’s about how he traps himself together with a bunch of trains and uses all his Dominators to judge all the passengers. And by forcing the Sybil-System to judge so many people at once, it’s forced to use its backup-systems to transmit the judgments to the Dominators. But by using all these Dominators, the Sybil-System makes itself vulnerable to be hacked which would allow Kamui to find out where the Sybil-System is. Once again Kamui exploits a weakness of the Sybil-System and yeah, it’s all revealed with tiresome exposition. The thing with Kamui’s plans to entrap the Sybil-System is that they are always excessively elaborate. And they always only work because of his miraculous ability to either be an omnipotent hacker, have followers in the right places at the right time and then there’s his omniscient strategizing for what the MWPSB will do.
This tenth episode is no exception in that regard and at this point, it really feels pointless to see the MWPSB even try to do something about Kamui. The MWPSB want to bomb the trains which would be an uncharacteristically violent solution for those guys but no, OF COURSE Kamui had already thought of that and more than that, he had thought of that before Chief Kasei had even thought of it. What’s even the point…?! By giving Kamui so much power, this second season doesn’t actually make him seem powerful; rather the series inadvertently lays bare the constructed, fictional nature of the story. The reason why we can watch marionettes moved by strings is because a story would convince us that they are real people in a fictional world or heightened personas at least. It’s all about making an illusion seem convincing. But stuff like making Kamui so uber-powerful is something that demands too much suspense of disbelief. And the series doesn’t deliver anything to distract from this plot-convenient portrayal of Kamui. Thanks to that, everything except Akane’s plot is pretty much pointless.
At this point, moments like this one are simply groanworthy…
The script of this series is plagued by some fundamental problems. If you look back on what this second season has been doing story-wise, you notice that there’s no build-up happening and nothing gets expanded or deepened, theme-wise. This season either introduces new facts with dull exposition or reiterates its core-points again and again. But this season doesn’t do anything with those core-points. Look at the omnipotence-paradox from the last episode. Akane brings up again while talking to Chief Kasei and they argue a bit about the practical consequences of allowing the Sybil-System to judge people as groups. So Kasei says “This could be troublesome.”, to which Akane replies “Yeah, but that’s chance.” and with that that topic ends. Instead of actually clarifying what applying the omnipotent-paradox says about the Sybil-System, the dialogue never tries to deliver more depth or expand on that topic, the episode just reiterates what the previous episode had already covered.
And that brings me to what Akane has been doing in this episode. I mean, holy shit, talk about a rollercoaster-ride of character-development. In one moment Akane is put into the deepest pit of despair she has ever seen and then… she goes crazy. Seriously, this dialogue with Kogami is schizophrenic – except, of course, it’s treated like a good thing. But holy shit, in one moment she went apeshit and then just by talking to her imaginary boyfriend, she’s completely fine again. And how fast her mood has changed in that scene from full-on “I’m about to shit my pants out of despair!”-mode to “Yeah! It’s time to face the music and make the right decisions!”-mode… it was a bit TOO sudden for my tastes. I guess, the episode considered it character-growth that Kogami basically could now talk to her even without her smelling the cigarettes… or whatever.
But hey, at least we get a decision that sets the stage for the finale… Actually, if you think about it, Akane kinda HAD to make that decision to just say “Fuck it! Let’s just put Kamui and the Sybil-System into one room together and see what happens!”. After all, Kamui’s latest “perfect crime” allowed him to pinpoint the location of the Sybil-System but that still doesn’t exactly give him access to the Sybil-System. Without Akane’s decision, we would’ve needed to watch a couple more “perfect crimes” so that Kamui could reach the Sybil-System. But since coincidentally Akane has now decided to “help” Kamui, the series can save some time there and get faster to the finishing-line.
- It will be really awkward if Akane ever meets Kogami again. After all, she then would not only have to deal with the Kogami in front of her but also the Kogami in her head.
- Also, Kamui executing Togane… My guess is that Akane wants to stop him because if Sybil allows itself to judge collectives, Kamui’s criminal actions will backfire as he will end up getting blasted by Dominators before he can judge the Sybil-System himself.
- And it’s really hilarious to think about how perfunctory the role of Akane’s grandmother has been in this season. That’s REALLY cheap writing.
- Whatever happened to Saiga’s threat to try to cloud the Psycho-Pass of Kamui’s friend? And how did Akane know that he had nothing to do with the murder of her grandma? It really feels like we went from the series proclaiming that Akane held Kamui responsible for the disappearance of her grandma to Akane suddenly knowing that Togane and his mother are behind the whole thing.
- And Chief Kasei really should’ve told Mika to not make her findings official. And naturally she only shared them with the rest of the Division at the start of this episode.
- Also, Akane has apparently hacked the file on Togane… who knows when she had done that apparently.